---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2002 17:35:25 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Grateful Dead Lyricist Condemns New Copyright Law
Grateful Dead Lyricist Condemns New Copyright Law
Sun Feb 24, 2002
By Elinor Mills Abreu
SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) - The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has
been used to jail a Russian software programmer and stifle Web sites, is
threatening the free flow of information, civil libertarians say.
Their struggle, which will eventually determine the course of how people
view movies, read books and use other material over the Internet, has
attracted luminaries like Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow.
Barlow, a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier
Foundation, has been at the forefront of protecting individual freedoms
online as the Internet matured from the anarchistic electronic playground of
a decade ago to the pervasive, regulated marketplace it is today.
"Information does want to be free," he said at a security conference on
Friday. "That's how the human mind works."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, he said, would turn "what has become a
natural rainforest" into a desert.
Enacted in 1998, the law prohibits creating or distributing technology that
can be used to circumvent copyright protections.
Movie studios, record labels and software companies support the law, arguing
that tight restrictions are needed to stop people from using the Internet to
freely swap intellectual property they should be paying for.
But programmers, computer scientists and civil libertarians claim the law
gives copyright owners and software vendors carte blanche control over how
people use digital material at the expense of free speech and "fair use"
rights that people have in the real world.
Barlow and the defense lawyer for a Russian company accused of violating the
law debated its merits with two lawyers representing the interests of
copyright holders in a panel at the conference sponsored by Internet
security firm RSA Security Inc. .
ETHICS, NOT ECONOMICS
"It sucks," Barlow said when asked to summarize what he thinks of the law.
Not only does the law curtail individual rights to free speech, he said, but
by limiting the exchange of ideas for the sake of corporate profits, it is
also culturally damaging.
"Society has certain rights, (like) the right to know that supersedes the
rights of content distributors," Barlow said.
Two lawyers disagreed.
"I believe in property rights," said Emery Simon, an attorney for the
Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group representing software vendors.
Intangibles like software and digital entertainment should have the same
protections as tangible property, he added.
"You produce a piece of software and it gets uploaded to the Internet" and
distributed widely, Simon said, painting a hypothetical picture. Software
programmers "should get paid for their work."
Jeffrey Osterman of New York law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges said the future
of entertainment e-commerce depends on the ability to control who can access
"If access control doesn't work, content providers won't put content up," he
said. "In the future, you'll get access to all the content you want for a
flat fee, for a limited time."
Objecting, Barlow pointed out that the Grateful Dead, one of the most
popular bands in U.S. history, still managed to get rich from its
top-selling albums despite encouraging the taping of "bootleg" audiotapes of
the group's concerts.
"Part of what drives the market is ethics," not just economics, he said. "I
never saw anybody sell (Grateful Dead bootleg) tapes. You have to look at
the kind of damage we do in the future if we try to own speech."
LAW SEEN TRAMPLING EXISTING RIGHTS
Joseph Burton, an attorney at the San Francisco-based firm of Duane Morris,
argued that under current law, people are entitled to fewer rights over
digital content than they have over the same content in the physical world.
For example, he said, ElcomSoft Co. Ltd. of Moscow faces charges of
violating the law for selling a program that lets people using Adobe Systems
Inc.'s eBook Reader to copy and print digital books, transfer them to other
computers and have them read aloud by the computer, which are "fair use"
protections under the law.
"I'm an e-book author and if someone wants to back up my e-book in case the
(computer) system crashes, that's not that bad," said panel moderator Steven
Levy, a technology columnist for Newsweek.
Simon countered that "fair use does not mean ... I can make a whole copy of
this thing," such as an electronic book.
The ElcomSoft program also allows unauthorized users to access copyright
content, Osterman noted.
"It may," Burton said. "A master key could be used by crooks. But the master
key maker shouldn't be put in jail. The crooks who are using it to break
into your house should be."
While ElcomSoft still faces trial, the U.S. government agreed to drop
charges against Dmitry Sklyarov, the 27-year-old ElcomSoft engineer who
wrote the program, in exchange for his testimony. Sklyarov and ElcomSoft say
they have done nothing illegal.
There have been other cases involving the law. The most prominent involves a
lawsuit filed by a group of movie studios against a Web site that had posted
and linked to sites that posted software used to descramble antipiracy
protections in digital video discs. A federal judge has ruled in favor of
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